Recently I was sitting and thinking a lot about how I'd do things differently if I were in the shoes of other people - which inspired me to write a series of columns I affectionately call WWCD: What Would Cory Do. It's not that I'm egotistical enough to pretend to know how to do everything, but I do have experience in marketing that might be valuable to someone in these same shoes. So with that out of the way, let's talk about how I'd go about marketing a new-media publishing company.
First thing to keep in mind; in publishing, your audience is your best marketing. This idiom can be applied to many other categories, but none are more applicable than publishing. Your audience and your readers are by far your most effective form of marketing. When they like what they read, they share it; in fact, the Web has become a sharing platform even more than an informational one. To execute against this tactic, your platform needs to be socially enabled and you need a holistic presence that is managed in a simple fashion. The easier the better, because the more difficult it is to manage your online presence and "broadcast" your content to your audience, the more you are apt to make mistakes. A marketer must socially enable the content using any of the plug and play tools like ShareThis or AddThis and turn the audience into a marketing vehicle.
Of course, you need an audience in order to go social, so driving qualified traffic becomes uber important at launch, at least until you gather momentum and can afford to ease back on the gas a little bit. At launch you need to create buzz and surround your target audience, to create the perception of being big even when you're not. Consumers are like lemmings; they all do what everyone else is doing, so part of marketing is creating the perception that everyone else is already doing it.
Identifying your target audience can be done the expensive or the inexpensive way. I tend to go the inexpensive way, but I call it "thrifty." Use paid search and Google Analytics to drive some initial traffic and analyze where the audience comes from, where they go when they leave, and how long they stay. Using this data, you can start to create a profile for an audience that can scale and grow.
You use that profile in your marketing efforts, even in the offline world, and by analyzing where they go you have an immediate audience to latch onto. Take those bounce destinations and run reports against their target audience using some free tool like Quantcast or Compete, and begin testing messaging using paid search or ad buys against that target and see if they can become your audience. There are also social targeting options you can use to target the fans of those other destination sites, reducing waste and increasing targeted messaging.
Online has a slew of opportunities like retargeting and old fashioned performance media buying you can use to drive an audience, but don't forget about the offline world. Creating targeted events against a specific audience can be a very fruitful way to drive buzz, especially since those events can be turned into content, too. Magazines in the music space do this very well. Throwing parties, filming and taking photos, as well as posting and sharing this content, creates buzz. Some of the local deal sites are doing this, too, creating buzz and a brand one user at a time. It is especially effective when using events as tools to gather names and create CRM opportunities. Once you've gathered eyeballs, you want to keep a relationship with them and see if you can convert them to a loyal reader or user.
Contests, sweepstakes, gifts and co-promotions are other tools at your disposal when you create a media publisher, because these are low-cost ways of getting people excited. They foster community, and drive repeat visits, which are two of the most important things in publishing (the other is content). Partnerships and reciprocal content exchanges with relevant publishers can drive an audience while providing your partner with content they can use to retain their audience as well. Ideally you create partnerships with non-competitive, yet complementary, partners so that everyone benefits.
If you have great content that users find valuable, you enable that content to be easily shared. In doing so you also extract that content and apply it to the real world so it can translate to when the user is not online. That translation to the real world creates an "impression" that unbinds you from the Web and makes you more tangible, which goes a long way toward creating loyalty.
For marketing a new-media publisher, there are other tools available to you, but these are the most important ones to begin with. Don't you agree?